<SiteLock

Begumpura: The Anarchist Commune

 

Pranav Jeevan P

pranav Begumpura ("land without sorrow") is a stateless, classless, casteless society imagined by poet Guru Raidas in his poem around 500 years ago in India. It was possibly the first imagination of an anarchist utopia in Indian literature. It became the guiding light for anti-caste intellectuals for imagining the society that they aspire to create.

 The Poem

 The regal realm with the sorrowless name:
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
No taxes or cares, none owns property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror, or torture.
Oh, my brother, I've come to take it as my own,
my distant home where everything is right.
That imperial kingdom is rich and secure,
where none are third or second – all are one;
They do this or that, they walk where they wish,
they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,
those who walk beside me are my friends. [1]

What makes Begumpura different from the other ancient imaginations of utopia is the lack of a government or king, which is clear from the "no taxes", "no property". An absence of private property and government points to an anarchist utopia on the principles of self-organization of free individuals based on mutual aid and participatory democracy. The casteless and classless society points to social and economic democracy. "They do this or that, they walk where they wish,they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged" shows that the members of Begumpura are free individuals without any oppressive and coercive hierarchical institutions to govern them. It also signifies the freedom of women from exploitation and assault. This is almost similar to the ideas that Paris commune of 1871, Revolutionary Catalonia of Spain during 1930s, Chiapas in Mexico and Rojava in Syria, tried to establish. Begumpura is an imagination against caste, class, state, Brahmanical hierarchies and patriarchy. A society living in harmony and free from all forms of discrimination. Guru Raidas's poems against untouchability, caste and social injustice, has long been a source of strength for the downtrodden to drive social change. Ravidas held caste discrimination as root of all social strife.

Anarchist social theory proceeds with the assumption that a better world is possible. That institutions like the state, capitalism, racism, casteism, and male dominance are not inevitable; that it is possible to have a world in which these things would not exist[2]. Anarchists believe that we need to prefigure the world we want to create so that we can decide on actions that can lead to such a world. Guru Raidas clearly conceived in his imagination what we seek to establish. He pre-figured a society where all forms of coercion vanish and people live with liberty and form voluntary associations based on democracy and mutual aid. It is high time that we revisit and re-imagine these visions, understand and imbibe the ideas behind them and work towards creating our Begumpura.

 References

[1] Hawley and Juergensmeyer, Eds., "Songs of the Saints of India," p. 32.
[2] D. Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, 2004.

~~~

 

 Pranav Jeevan P is currently a PhD candidate in Artificial Intelligence at IIT Bombay. He has earlier studied quantum computing in IIT Madras and Robotics at IIT Kanpur.

Other Related Articles

Liberal narrative and Afghanistan
Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Vinith Kumar These last few weeks have been about the Taliban. But it hasn’t really been about them. The reports, the end of the war, the exit of the American forces, the tragic images from the... Read More...
We the People: Expanding the Idea of Democracy - Part 3
Sunday, 29 August 2021
Pranav Jeevan P People normally blame democracy by saying it is not a good model of governance citing the issues that plague our country like poverty, corruption, unemployment and under-development.... Read More...
‘Chak De! India’ and Women's Hockey
Saturday, 21 August 2021
  Khakhlari Recently the Indian women's field hockey team made headlines as they qualified for the Olympic semi-finals for the first time in Tokyo. Quite predictably and not without fair reason,... Read More...
Caste management through feminism in India
Friday, 06 August 2021
Kanika S There was a time some 5-6 years ago when feminism tried to undermine Dr Ambedkar by pointing out that he carried a penis.1 Now he is just as fantastically a carrier of feminist ideals... Read More...
Sunflower giving Mother
Monday, 26 July 2021
“If there was no night, women would not even have a chance to rest” – Smt. Kusum Nigam Dhamma Darshan Nigam Our mother once said that “अगर रात नहीं होती तो... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Babasaheb and Labour
Saturday, 01 May 2021
  Gaurav Somwanshi Today, let us understand Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's contribution to labour welfare in 10 examples. These are taken from a variety of sources, but primarily from BAWS volumes. The... Read More...
Caste management through feminism in India
Friday, 06 August 2021
Kanika S There was a time some 5-6 years ago when feminism tried to undermine Dr Ambedkar by pointing out that he carried a penis.1 Now he is just as fantastically a carrier of feminist ideals... Read More...
Sunflower giving Mother
Monday, 26 July 2021
“If there was no night, women would not even have a chance to rest” – Smt. Kusum Nigam Dhamma Darshan Nigam Our mother once said that “अगर रात नहीं होती तो... Read More...
Liberal narrative and Afghanistan
Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Vinith Kumar These last few weeks have been about the Taliban. But it hasn’t really been about them. The reports, the end of the war, the exit of the American forces, the tragic images from the... Read More...
We the People: Expanding the Idea of Democracy - Part 3
Sunday, 29 August 2021
Pranav Jeevan P People normally blame democracy by saying it is not a good model of governance citing the issues that plague our country like poverty, corruption, unemployment and under-development.... Read More...